An overdue national koala recovery plan should be a priority as a study looks at the constant battle between development and habitat fragmentation on the North Coast.
State governments are currently working on their own recovery plans which will then be used to formulate a federal strategy.
However, Australian National University ecologist Kara Youngentob has warned that while state plans are important, the federal government should have a national strategy in place now as well.
Dr Youngentob, who has completed a study on South Coast forests, is working with ANU ecologist, Karen Ford, on the North Coast study.
"They really dropped the ball on this, since it is many years' overdue," Dr Youngentob said.
"States need support and guidance at the federal level for this iconic Australian species.
"Ultimately, the long term management strategy for the koala has to work across state lines and have at least some regulations that are consistent across the animal's range while recognising very different management needs in different places.
"I don't know the specific reasons why there has been a delay. However, if it was a priority, it would have happened."
The NSW Natural Resource Commission is funding the North Coast study which will look at the impacts of logging on forest composition and nutritional quality for koalas.
COVID has delayed some of the work for that study, but results should be available before the end of the year.
Dr Youngentob warned that "you can not continue with the level of development and habitat fragmentation that is currently happening and expect to have koalas in the future too".
"People will have to decide what is important to them," she said.
"Not only are koalas facing loss of habitat from land clearing and development, but climate change is also making large portions of their former range unhabitable.
"This is death by a thousand cuts for the koala. The current protections that are in place are not enough."
You can not continue with the level of development and habitat fragmentation that is currently happening and expect to have koalas in the future too.Dr Kara Youngentob
Which is why the study is important, she said.
"We need to understand how different logging practices impact the quality of browse available to koalas.
"The quality of food impacts how many koalas can live somewhere, so it's very important. Food quality also has impacts on animals health and reproductive fitness.
"It is one of the most important considerations of habitat quality but rarely considered in habitat assessments.
"We hope that results will be used in the future to make more informed landscape management decisions.
"As scientists, it's not our job to determine how the science is used, but to provide the information so that policy makers and the broader community can better understand the impacts of their decisions."
The ecologist admitted getting the balance between development and ensuring koala habitat remains viable was not easy.
"The koala is hard from a policy perspective because there are so many different stakeholders and powerful interest groups.
"The koala lives where there are other resources that people want. It doesn't make decision-making easy.
"No one should shy away from doing their job because its not easy though."
The results from the South Coast study made significant findings including, the impact on tree species composition of forests from logging and fire and, the composition of tree species impacts the nutritional quality of the landscape for koalas and other leaf eating animals.
"At a basic level, we need to get a better handle on the current state of koala populations and habitat quality across the koala's range," Dr Youngentob said.
"Only then can we understand the impacts of our land management decisions and respond accordingly."